Tyler Perry, Inc.
The world stage is the next goal for the Perry brandAre you ready for "Madea Goes to the Louvre"?
After unprecedented U.S. success with his stage plays, films and two hit TV shows, Tyler Perry is now eyeing a global stage, and says he even joined friend Will Smith in Europe during the holidays to look at how to take his brand to the international marketplace.
That is just one element among several in plans for Perry to expand his multimedia empire, including early talks to launch his own cable TV channel -- similar to Oprah Winfrey's OWN -- possibly in association with Turner Broadcasting.
But it is the international push that is foremost on his mind.
The multihyphenate says he and his reps, led by Charles King at WMA and attorney Matt Johnson at Ziffren Brittenham, have been talking to Sony and Fox about possibly doing a new distribution deal that would give his films a higher profile in overseas territories -- even though the conventional wisdom holds that black-themed movies don't perform well there.
"Why do people say that?" Perry responds. "Will Smith showed me the data. Each country is a whole other world, so I think (my) films could do well there. The Wayans brothers have done well -- 'White Chicks' and 'Scary Movie.' If you find someone who is willing to invest in all areas -- marketing, dubbing -- so that it's familiar to the actual country, it can work."
As Perry prepares for the Friday release of his new movie, "Madea Goes to Jail," The Hollywood Reporter breaks down the different parts of his empire.
Perry co-financed with Lionsgate his first film, the $6 million "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," which opened atop the boxoffice in February 2005 with more than $21 million in ticket sales -- nearly three times what boxoffice analysts had predicted -- and went on to gross more than $50 million.
Perry's lucrative relationship with the indie studio pays him up to $15 million upfront plus 15% of first-dollar gross for his major projects. He also gets final cut and owns the copyright on his movies and TV shows, and he receives an unprecedented 50% of the gross on the back end for home video, pay TV and other post-theatrical rights.
"Tyler has always been a businessman who has taken risks and believes in himself," Lionsgate president of production Mike Paseornek says.
The relationship has led to five more films: "Madea's Family Reunion" ($63 million); "Daddy's Little Girls" ($31 million); "Why Did I Get Married?" ($55 million); "Meet the Browns" ($42 million); and "The Family That Preys" ($37 million). Lionsgate estimates that Perry's first six movies have sold a combined 15 million home video units (plus another 10 million DVDs of taped versions of his plays).
His seventh film, "Madea Goes to Jail," opens Friday in wide release. Based on Perry's most successful play, it is his largest budget film to date, costing between $15 million and $20 million.
In addition, Perry is busy writing his eighth film and recently created 34th Street Films to develop projects written and directed by others. It has offices in Atlanta and Los Angeles and is headed by Matt Moore. In one of 34th Street's first moves, Perry partnered this month with Lionsgate and Oprah Winfrey to "present" the Sundance award-winning independent movie "Push: Based on the Novel By Sapphire."
Perry's television deals are perhaps the most ground-breaking. After the success of his first films, Debmar-Mercury, a TV syndicator owned by Lionsgate, approached him about creating a series. To keep full creative control, Perry agreed to finance out of his own pocket 10 episodes of "House of Payne," which were shown on nine stations around the country in June 2006.
"Those were phenomenal," says Steve Koonin, president of Time Warner's Turner Entertainment Networks. "And we agreed with a lot of excitement as well as trepidation to buy 100 episodes."
"Payne's" debut was ad-supported cable's most-watched original sitcom telecast ever among total viewers (5.8 million) and adults 18-49 (3.1 million), according to Turner Broadcasting. It also ranked as TV's most-watched program among black adults 18-49.
Plus, the Turner order, valued at about $200 million, meant not only would TBS be able to strip the show five days a week, but that there would be enough episodes for Debmar-Mercury to also launch it in syndication, which it did in September. There are now 127 episodes of "Payne."
Then came "Meet the Browns," a spinoff from Perry's movie of the same name. This time, Turner and Perry split the cost of the first 10 episodes used as a test. Those episodes began airing in January and ranked as television's top scripted series among black viewers, households, adults 18-34 and adults 18-49.
In February, Turner ordered another 70 episodes of "Meet the Browns," which will begin airing in the summer. After a 15-month exclusive window, the series will enter syndication in the fall, following the pattern set by "Payne."
As the only totally nonstudio independent producer of scripted series for TV, Perry says his next goal may be to co-own a network like his friend and mentor Winfrey's OWN.
Perry still performs in the medium that made him famous, though he is not currently touring in "The Marriage Counselor," his latest production. Still, with as many as 30,000-40,000 people a week showing up for his plays, he is one of the biggest theater draws in the country, including Broadway.
He communicates with fans by way of an
e-mail newsletter, and often sells out shows via online ticketing. Perry also wrote a book, "Don't Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings," which has sold 650,000 copies.
Tyler Perry Studios
Perhaps his crowning achievement, in October Perry opened the sprawling Tyler Perry Studios near the Atlanta airport in space formerly used by Delta Airlines.
Spread over about 28 acres, the complex has 200,000 square feet of stages and offices. Perry named each of the five stages for legendary black entertainers -- Ossie Davis/
Ruby Dee, Poitier, Tyson, Quincy Jones and Eartha Kitt. While his plan eventually is to lease out some of the space to others, for at least the coming year every inch is busy with Perry's own projects.
To support the four soundstages and a back lot, the complex has postproduction facilities, a screening room, a scene shop, a commissary and more.
And by shooting in Georgia, Perry gets a 30% tax credit rebate.
He says he doesn't worry about spreading himself too thin. Lionsgate's Paseornek recalls getting a call from Perry one evening: "He's whispering, and I say 'Why are you whispering?' And then I hear people applauding and he says, 'I have to go.' It turns out he was in
the wings going onstage as Madea in a play and he was talking to me from the wings while the play was on. So I guess he's a good multitasker."